When people exhaust the avenues available for them and their voices still aren’t heard, they tend to get frustrated. Some—but certainly not all activists—may turn to illegal measures in these situations, where they feel that petition-signing and protesting with placards isn’t doing any good. That could be the motivation behind the destruction of GMO sugar beet plants in Jackson County, Oregon this month, a possible attempt to shock the federal government and Big Agriculture into listening.
According to the Oregonian, the destruction took place over a period of two nights this month. On June 8, about 1,000 sugar beet plants were destroyed.
Three nights later, another 5,500 plants were killed. Both crops were Roundup ready (Monsanto’s GMO sugar beets) and were planted on privately owned land being leased and managed by Syngenta.
The FBI is calling this an act of “economic sabotage and a violation of federal law involving damage to commercial agricultural enterprises.” They are asking the public for tips.
“It doesn’t look like a vehicle was used,” said Paul Minehart of North America for Syngenta. “It looks like people entered the field and destroyed the plants by hand.”
This sort of agricultural protest isn’t the first of its kind. More than a decade ago, members of the Earth Liberation Front (ELA) set fire to the agricultural offices of Michigan State University to protest genetic engineering, calling it “one of the many threats to the natural world as we know it.” The ELA, a radical environmental group, is known for their dramatic forms of protest.
FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele says the financial losses in the sugar beet destruction are significant. Oregonians for Food and Shelter, a local nonprofit, has offered up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whomever is to blame.
Frustration with the government and corporations like Monsanto is understandable in this day and age. Many Americans don’t want genetically modified foods, and most surely want them labeled, but officials aren’t listening. The government is protecting the interests of Big Ag companies that have millions invested in this dangerous technology, and it can feel like petition signing, placard carrying, and email writing isn’t doing good.
But, resorting to illegal acts will only land you in prison and add fuel to the corporate fire that those who want GM foods gone are “extremists” and don’t represent the average American. This simply isn’t true and we can’t allow companies like Monsanto and the U.S. Government that seems to be protecting them to lump all detractors together. Was the destruction caused by activists? We don’t know, but the government doesn’t need to be given any reasons to write us all off.